February 20, 2008 – A federal program has named the University of Virginia to the President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll With Distinction for exemplary service efforts and service to disadvantaged youth.
Launched in 2006 through the Corporation for National and Community Service, the awards are the highest federal recognition a school can achieve for its commitment to service learning and civic engagement. Recipients were chosen based on a series of selection factors, including scope and innovativeness of service projects, percentage of student participation in service activities, incentives for service and the extent to which the school offers academic service-learning courses.
U.Va., one of 127 universities and colleges on the "Honor Roll With Distinction," also made the 2006 honor roll list, the first time schools were selected for the honors.
"The University of Virginia has a tradition of our students, faculty and staff serving the public. We consider such service a part of our very fabric of our community," said Dr. Arthur Garson Jr., U.Va. executive vice president and provost. "As one of our top strategic goals moving forward, in order to further distinguish the student experience, we are planning new courses and considering a track for students to organize, carry out and publish the experiences of innovative ways of serving the public at home and abroad."
Several of the University of Virginia's programs were noted for their positive impact on the community: the School of Law Pro Bono Project; Madison House, the University's major student volunteer center; the School of Medicine's Social Issues in Medicine course; and the Men's Leadership Project. Other services, highlighted for targeting disadvantaged youth, were the Jumpstart program, the Day in the Life program and the Young Women's Leadership Program. They provide tutoring, mentoring and other support activities that include college as a goal.
"College students like those at the University of Virginia are tackling the toughest problems in America, demonstrating their compassion, commitment and creativity in by serving as mentors, tutors, health workers and even engineers," said Liz Seale, chief operating officer of the Corporation for National and Community Service. "They represent a renewed spirit of civic engagement fostered by outstanding leadership on caring campuses."
The Honor Roll is jointly sponsored by the corporation, through its Learn and Serve America program, and the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, USA Freedom Corps and the President's Council on Service and Civic Participation.
In congratulating the winners, U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings said, "Americans rely on our higher education system to prepare students for citizenship and the workforce. We look to institutions like these to provide leadership in partnering with local schools to shape the civic, democratic and economic future of our country."
Overall, the Community Service Honor Roll awarded six schools with Presidential Awards. In addition, four schools were recognized as Special Achievement Award winners, 127 as Honor Roll With Distinction members and 391 schools as Honor Roll members. In total, 528 schools were recognized. A full list is available at www.nationalservice.gov/honorroll.
"There is no question that the universities and colleges who have made an effort to participate and win the Honor Roll award are themselves being rewarded," said American Council on Education President David Ward. "Earning this distinction is not easy. But now each of these schools will be able to wear this award like a badge of honor."
The Corporation for National and Community Service is a federal agency that improves lives, strengthens communities, and fosters civic engagement through service and volunteering. The corporation administers Senior Corps, AmeriCorps and Learn and Serve America, a program that supports service learning in schools, institutions of higher education and community-based organizations. For information, go to www.nationalservice.gov.
University of Virginia programs
• School of Law Pro Bono Project
Students are expected to volunteer 25 hours annually. While many meet this requirement, others choose to exceed it. Last year alone, 299 students participated in the Pro Bono Project, offering more than 13,500 hours of legal assistance throughout the fall and spring semesters and over the winter and spring break periods.
• Madison House
The center coordinates volunteers, develops student leaders, builds community partnerships and promotes lifelong volunteer service. In 2006-07, over 3,300 University of Virginia students, mostly undergraduates, volunteered each week during the regular academic session, giving over 110,000 hours, representing 2.2 million dollars of service. These volunteers have reached over 17,000 community residents.
• Social Issues in Medicine
All first-year medical students are required to perform community service to complete the requirements of the course. In 2006-07, 140 first-year medical students were placed in 40 community settings —social service agencies and public and private schools, for example — where they performed 4,200 hours of community service during the fall and spring semesters.
• Men's Leadership Project
The program, a collaboration among the Dean of Students office, the Curry School of Education and the U.Va. Women's Center, is designed as a leadership development and mentoring program pairing undergraduates with fifth-grade boys for a full academic year and providing structured topical group activities and individual mentoring contacts. The undergraduate training takes place one semester prior to beginning the mentoring relationship. The Men's Leadership program is currently a school-based service-learning program that works to build strong community connections.